If you live in Anchorage, Alaska, you may have seen an op-ed in your local newspaper a few weeks ago about how occupational certification is specifically bad for your state. Also, you may have seen a similar op-ed if you live in Charleston, South Carolina. Or Oklahoma City. Or Reno. Or Portland, Maine.
After reading an op-ed by Koch Industries senior vice president Mark Holden in his own paper in late December, an Alaska Dispatch News columnist noticed that Holden had placed a nearly identical editorial in at least 35 other papers across the country. In Reno, it was headlined “One view: Nevada should roll back occupational licensing”; in Portland, “Maine Voices: Requiring licenses for too many jobs hinders economic mobility.” In Casper, Wyoming, Holden’s screed was put forth as “A new year’s resolution for Wyoming leaders.”
The editorials, which were published between December and early January, all open the same way: “What should Alaska lawmakers’ New Year’s resolutions be? I have a suggestion: Break down barriers to opportunity for the least fortunate.” Except instead of Alaska, it’s New Hampshire, or Rhode Island, or Mississippi, or Indiana. Save for state and city names and one sentence quoting region-specific statistics, the rest of the articles are exactly the same. It’s just like a Mad Lib, if Lib were short for “Libertarian.”
The crux of the Holden’s argument is that occupational licenses—state-issued certifications for becoming a truck driver, or food handler, or therapist—are hinderances to people who are looking for work, and hurt state economies in the long term. This is an unsurprising point for a Koch executive, considering his company’s stringent opposition to government regulation of all kinds. One of the pieces of evidence he gives for his claim is a report by the Institute of Justice—a think tank and law firm founded with money from none other than Charles Koch.
I want you to remember this, good citizens of [CITY], one of America’s greatest towns: next time some rich and well-connected outsider purports to be speaking to your best interests, tell him to shove his cookie-cutter editorial up his [BODILY ORIFICE].